By the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

The Walla Walla Valley will benefit from more than $4.7 million in COVID-19 relief funding through donations made in 2020 by businesses and people inspired by the All In WA Initiative, according to the Blue Mountain Community Foundation.

“Nearly $4.14 million of those donated funds is eligible for the All In WA match,” said BMCF Grant Manager Greer Buchanan on Friday.

All In WA is a statewide relief effort led by a coalition of public officials, companies, philanthropic leaders, community foundations, United Way organizations, community leaders, nonprofits and individuals.

Local donations were made to COVID-19 response funds hosted by Blue Mountain Community Foundation and United Way of the Blue Mountains.

“I simply don’t have words to properly describe the magnitude of our community’s generosity. Tremendous. Magnificent. Dazzling. Shockingly heartwarming,” BMCF President Kol Medina said in a prepared statement. “Our community’s unprecedented support for nonprofits during this pandemic is staggering.”

“And let’s not forget that All In WA, through the amazing generosity of Jeff Bezos and the staff at the Seattle Foundation, will be matching all of these donations, up to 100%,” Medina added. “So it is possible that the millions donated will be doubled.”

Walla Walla Symphony received the largest donation to a single organization through the Charitable Gift Guide, which will be matched up to 100%. The $825,000 came from an anonymous couple.

Symphony CEO Leah Wilson-Velasco described the funding as transformative. “This gift will allow us to challenge and delight our community through music for years to come.”

The pandemic shutdown has devastated nonprofits, forcing many organizations to cancel their programs and close their doors while others have faced unprecedented need for their services.

More than $4,284,736 was raised through BMCF, with $562,742 raised through the foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund set up in March, $1.5 million in designated gifts to area nonprofits, and $2.1 million donated through the Charitable Giving Guide, presented by Columbia REA.

“We live in an amazing community,” said Columbia REA CEO Scott Peters. “Supporting each other has never been more important than right now.”

Eligible nonprofits from Pendleton to Pomeroy received donations.

“None of the money is just sitting here, it’s all going out,” Buchanan said, and dollars continue to come in.

“This community just stepped up and then those funds are going to be matched,” she said. “They leveraged their giving to better benefit. It’s so cool.”

The BMCF COVID-19 Response Fund provided a match for the first $10,000 raised by Umatilla County nonprofits, which are geographically ineligible for the All In WA match. Oregon donors raised $32,020 altogether, Buchanan said.

The year has been challenging for Walla Walla Choral Society, too. Its source for funding through performances “was to the point of running completely out of operating dollars,” said WWCS President Bob Schumacher.

Through charitable giving, WWCS received $3,445 to help carry it through until performances in the Walla Walla Valley community it supports can resume.

United Way of the Blue Mountains raised $461,172 under the COVID-19 All In WA Initiative.

To date, United Way has given $238,148 to 44 different agencies across the region.

Donations for general COVID-19 relief will be awarded in a special nonprofit mini grant cycle in spring. More information will be released in coming weeks.

“We are so proud to partner with All In WA’s COVID-19 Fund, and honored by the generosity of our community,” said United Way of the Blue Mountains Executive Director Christy Lieuallen.

“This fund not only raised much needed dollars for our community, but it’s wonderful to have a fund that was flexible, allowing people to decide how best to prioritize their needs for housing, health care, food, childcare, transportation and other necessities,” Lieuallen said.

Money raised through the Charitable Giving Guide and United Way programs will be paid out immediately to individual nonprofits. The matching dollars from All In WA are expected to be awarded to their respective nonprofits in March.

BMCF absorbed all credit card and administrative fees, ensuring the intent of donors is honored 100%.

The COVID-19 Response Fund Advisory Committee, comprised United Way, BMCF and local leaders meets regularly and reviews grant applications for urgent/emergent funds to address pandemic-related needs.

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